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Daily Briefing -197

Post: Nov. 22, 2020

COVID and Cluster Update 

Governor Cuomo held a press briefing yesterday afternoon providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Saturday, November 21st and reminding New Yorkers that as Thanksgiving and the holidays approach, “we must wash our hands, wear our masks and avoid gatherings to keep the infection rate down.” 

Tracking data for the Clusters and the rest of the State are below. 

  • Clusters: 4.39%
  • Rockland Red zone: 3.39%
  • Westchester yellow-zones (Peekskill  7.15, Ossining 10.22, Tarrytown 8.27, Yonkers 4.11 New Rochelle 5.68, Port Chester 7.59)
  • Orange Yellow Zones – (Newburgh 7.89, Middletown 5.41)
  • Statewide: 2.74%
  • Statewide excluding clusters: 2.29%
  • Statewide hospitalizations: 2562 (502 in ICU) 
  • Transmission Rate (R0): 1.25

Here are some useful websites:

Pfizer, BioNTech Submit Formal Application to FDA to Authorize Covid-19 Vaccine

The drug maker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech applied on Friday to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for their Covid-19 vaccine, a watershed moment in the effort to curb the global pandemic.

Hours later, the FDA announced that a panel of outside experts, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee or VRBPAC, will meet Dec. 10 to review the data and advise the agency on whether to approve the emergency use request and what conditions, if any, to put on the vaccine’s use.  It is widely expected that the FDA will then issue an emergency use authorization for the two-dose vaccine, which has been shown to be highly effective in preventing Covid infections. Officials have said they hope to begin vaccination of health workers — who will be at the front of the line for the limited first doses — in some locations within days of the authorization.  It it unlikely to be authorized for use in children under the age of 12, for instance, because it hasn’t yet been tested in pre-teens.

Read more at StatNews

SUNY Chancellor Says COVID-19 Under Control

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said Friday afternoon, during a visit to the SUNY New Paltz campus, out of 140,000 students tested within the two weeks before the break, there were approximately 850 positive cases and a 0.5 percent positivity rate out of 510,000 tests conducted since mandatory testing began at the beginning of the semester.

According to both Malatras and SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian, students have been extremely cooperative and responsible about testing. Upstate Medical School is currently one of 150 areas in the world being used in Pfizer’s vaccine clinical trials. Malatras said the majority of those volunteers are SUNY students.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News

DiNapoli: State Tax Revenues Down $3 Billion Through October

State tax revenues through October totaled $43.8 billion, $3 billion lower than the same period in the previous fiscal year, according to the monthly State Cash Report released Saturday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.  

DiNapoli noted that spending from State Operating Funds, which pays for the state’s day-to-day operations as well as certain local assistance, through the first seven months of the fiscal year was $49.9 billion, or $6.1 billion lower than a year earlier. This is due to several factors including an increase in federal Medicaid reimbursements and according to the state Division of the Budget (DOB), withholding of $2.6 billion, including $2.4 billion in local assistance payments, through September.  Total tax receipts in October of $4.3 billion were $432.9 million below DOB’s projection in its FY 2021 Mid-Year Update, issued Oct. 30, but $320.1 million higher than DOB’s projection in its First Quarter Update issued in August. 

Read more at the Controller’s website

Jobless Claims Pick Up Amid Labor Market Struggles

Jobless claims totaled 742,000 for the week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That total also represented an acceleration from the previous week’s 709,000 and a continuation of the job market struggles since the coronavirus pandemic hit in early March.

The week-over-week increase was the first after four straight weeks of decline. Even with the increase for the most recent period, the four-week moving average, which smooths volatility in the numbers, decreased 13,750 to 742,00.

Read more at CNBC

Hudson Valley Employment Data

For the 12-month period ending October 2020, private sector job count in the Hudson Valley fell by 78,400, or 9.6 percent, to 742,500.  The October 2020 year-over-year job losses in our region continue to reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  At 742,500, private sector job count has reached its lowest October level since 2010.  Meanwhile, the month-over month change – a gain of 13,800, reflects the reopening of the economy.  The historical average over-the-month change between September and October is a gain of 5,000.

Manufacturing employment stands at 39,500 (3,800 fewer than a year ago but 200 more than last month.

Labor Market Profile (Hudson Valley) OCT 2020

US Chamber: 7 Resources for PPP Loan Forgiveness Help (The 8th is the Council’s December 7 Webinar with JGS)

The federal government created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the CARES Act, in March 2020 to provide businesses affected by COVID-19 with a lifeline. The PPP offered loans to companies that could be forgiven later if the right circumstances were met, including using the funds to maintain employee salaries and hire back workers.

While forgiveness was an attractive attribute for PPP loans, the actual process of obtaining forgiveness can be challenging for business owners. Forgiveness requires that businesses do many calculations, provide documentation, fill out forms and other time-consuming tasks.

Existing Home Sales Surge

According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales increased 4.3% in October over September, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.85 million. That benchmark represented the highest level since February of 2006.

Prices have also shown a significant increase due to low interest rates that have helped boost demand. According to the NAR, the median existing home price rose 15.5% from the prior year to a record $313,000.  The price increase also stems from a limited supply. The NAR recorded 1.42 million homes for sale at the end of October—a decrease of 2.7% from September and 19.8% from October 2019.

Read more at Reuters

New-Home Construction Surges 

U.S. builders started construction on homes at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million in October, representing a 4.9% increase from the previous month’s figure, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday. Permitting for new homes occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.545 million in October, unchanged from September.

Read more at MarketWatch

Lumber Prices Rise Again, Defying the Normal Seasonal Slowdown

Lumber prices are making an unusual late-season climb, thanks to builder-friendly autumn weather and suppliers stocking up for what they expect to be another big year for home construction.  Wood inventories are thin throughout the lumber supply chain, while demand from builders and home remodelers remains strong.

Lumber futures have shot up 24% so far in November, closing Thursday at $616.90 per thousand board feet. That’s a lot lower than the record $1,000 hit this summer during America’s pandemic-induced lumber binge. But it is nearly 90% more than the typical price for boards delivered in January.

Read more at the WSJ

IRS Issues Guidance Denying Tax Deductions for PPP Loans

Bond Schoeneck & King Attorney Raymond Reichert writes that the IRS has released guidance on the deductibility of payments for otherwise deductible expenses using funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “The guidance, although not unexpected, is not taxpayer friendly.”

Revenue Ruling 2020-27 describes two situations. In situation 1, the taxpayer incurred eligible expenses for which a PPP loan was obtained. In November, the taxpayer applied for loan forgiveness under Section 1106 of the CARES Act. In situation 2, the taxpayer paid the same types of eligible expenses as those paid in situation 1. However, in situation 2, the taxpayer did not apply for forgiveness of the PPP loan before the end of 2020. However, in situation 2 the taxpayer intends to apply for forgiveness in 2021.

Read more at BSK